Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
“To learn what we fear is to learn what we are.” So says Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, best known for movies like The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), and Pan’s Labryinth (2006). Del Toro terrifies audiences through a combination of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, but his fascination with the dark side isn’t limited to the screen; he has amassed a creepy collection of artifacts, film art, props, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and comic books that he keeps at Bleak House, a home in Los Angeles he maintains expressly for those items.
At Home With Monsters, a new exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts running through May 28, gives museum-goers a peek at Del Toro’s twisted inner world and offers homage to the pop culture, art history, and cinema of the occult. “It’s here to try and provoke a shock to the system and get circulating the lifeblood of imagination, which I think is curiosity,” Del Toro explains in a video installation included in the exhibition. Lending a sonic eeriness to the show is a score by Academy Award-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla.
Del Toro became obsessed with horror while growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico. “I was attracted to monsters when I was in the crib,” he told the L.A. Times last year. Perhaps because he often felt like an outsider, he identified with Frankenstein’s monster, one of the recurring characters in the exhibition. Though Del Toro made short horror films from an early age, he initially entered the entertainment world as a special effects makeup artist. He has since directed ten films and built a cult following. Due to real-life horror–his father was kidnapped in Mexico and held in captivity for 72 days in 1998–he no longer directs films in his country of origin.
Bleak House and the At Home With Monsters exhibition represent the fulfillment of a lifelong goal for Del Toro. “As a kid, I dreamed of having a house with secret passages and a room where it rained 24 hours a day,” Del Toro told Time magazine in 2013. (Indeed, the exhibition includes a false window and a pseudo-thunderstorm that never ceases.) “The point of being over 40 is to fulfill the desires you’ve been harboring since you were 7.”
Here are just a few of the spooky scenes from the exhibition: